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Not Ready to Pay for TV Time, a Mexican Beer Goes Online

Decades ago, brewers determined that television commercials were just about the best way to sell beer, as anyone can attest who has listened to consumers still able to sing jingles like “This Bud’s for you,” “Tonight, let it be Löwenbräu” or “A beer is a beer is a beer is a beer until you’ve tasted Hamm’s.”

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A Web site for Pacifico, a beer imported from Mexico, features videos that evoke sun, sand, surf and extremely hot peppers

Now, the Internet makes it possible for beers whose sales volume or marketing budgets are not ready for TV to use the power of video — “sight, sound and motion,” as the advertising professors once intoned — to reach potential customers.

A Mexican import, Pacifico, is filling its Web site ( with 30 brand-centric video clips that celebrate a life centered on sun, sand, surf, street food and a willingness to eat extremely hot peppers or play checkers with bottle caps.

The videos, and the Web site, were created by Creature, an agency in Seattle that also produces ads for Pacifico in traditional media like magazines and billboards and oversees promotions like the refitting of 1960s Volkswagen buses to serve as touring Pacifico peddlers.

The online initiative is part of plans to increase the marketing spending for Pacifico this year to about $15 million, almost 50 percent more than in 2007.

Pacifico has been growing in popularity without video pitches. Sales volume has increased at a compound annual rate of 14.8 percent, according to Crown Imports, a venture of Grupo Modelo and Constellation Brands that sells Pacifico in the United States along with brands like Corona Extra, Corona Light, Negra Modelo and St. Pauli Girl.

Still, volume for Pacifico, estimated at more than five million cases a year, is less than half that of an import like Guinness and less than 1 percent of a domestic brand like Bud Light.

Sales for Pacifico are concentrated in states like Arizona and California, reflecting the brand’s origin in Baja California, Mexico. Until now, the ads for Pacifico have followed a regional strategy.

“Our first national push is via our Web site, which is intended to be the home base for Pacifico,” said Paul Verdu, the vice president for marketing at Crown in Chicago who oversees what he calls its “next-wave brands” — that is, all the imports without “Corona” in their names.

The goal is for Pacifico to “grow out of its very, very strong West Coast roots,” Mr. Verdu said, “into the eastern half of the United States.”

“And when we say ‘the eastern half of the United States,’ ” he added, laughing, “it’s everywhere east of Denver, honestly.”

“To me as the brand guy, trying to drive this, these videos are really the magic,” he said, “a great new way to deliver our message.”

The videos, which run from 15 seconds to 3 minutes, were filmed in Mexico with Super 8 movie cameras to give the footage less of a slick, polished look. The locations range from cities like Mazatlán, where Pacifico is brewed, to a surfing beach in a jungle that is only vaguely identified — the better to keep away the land sharks (people who do not surf but insist they do).

The videos feature pursuits labeled as “actividades de Pacifico,” which include the aforementioned bottle-cap checkers games, the pepper-eating contests and something called an “iguana slalom.” One video suggests this regimen: “Open swim in the morning. Pacifico lessons in the afternoon.”

“The idea of this brand is core to the strategy of making films and bringing them onto the Internet,” said Jim Haven said, co-founder and creative director at Creature, because “this is a brand about adventure, about discovery, a brand that people find and become the advocates for.”

“Online, they’ll get a chance to discover it virtually,” he added.

To encourage that, there will be ads to drive traffic to the Pacifico Web site, which are to run on Web sites like,, and

Online video is of course not the exclusive province of brewers. Marketers of other packaged goods are populating the Internet with clips as the cost of TV commercials continues to rise and ratings continue to fall.

For example, a new variety of Post Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, sold by Kraft Foods, is being promoted with a video styled like a performance by a pair of boy singers named Dawn’s Early Knights. The song, “Breakfast in Bed,” can be heard on its Web site (

The video, for Honey Bunches of Oats With Real Chocolate Clusters, was created by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide in New York, part of the WPP Group.

In a survey by the Association of National Advertisers — scheduled to be released on Thursday at a symposium called the TV and Everything Video Forum — 62 percent of respondents said they believed TV advertising has become less effective in the last two years. And 87 percent of respondents said they intended to spend more on online ads in 2008.

Even so, Mr. Haven is demonstrating a fondness for kicking it old school. From all the film shot in Mexico for the online videos, “we cut a couple spots” in 30-second lengths, Mr. Haven said, that could become TV commercials.

“And the music is licensed for air,” he added hopefully.

Stuart Elliott

New York Times - 28 February 2008
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